Around the middle of the twentieth century, Reinhold Niebuhr was the most prominent Protestant theologian in America. He was on the cover of Time magazine (March 8, 1948). More recently, Barack Obama called Niebuhr his favorite philosopher (Brooks). Niebuhr is author of the well-known serenity prayer.
God give us the grace to accept things that cannot be changed.
Courage to change the things that should be changed.
And the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.
While many readers admire Niebuhr’s wisdom, fewer have been able to discern his theology. Some find none at all. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. spoke for many agnostics in wondering whether Niebuhr’s wisdom on human nature had anything to do with his Christian theology (Crouter, p 96). He was wrong. Niebuhr’s theology is deep, sophisticated, and informs the two concepts by which he understands the day-to-day world: idolatry and sin. Yet about one of the most terrible issues of our age, annihilatory evil, Niebuhr is led astray by his own theology.
Continue reading Does Reinhold Niebuhr believe in God?
Process theology and a less than omnipotent God.
There are a lot of synonyms for God, particularly in the Old Testament as Christians call it. One of the more frequent is God Almighty (El Shaddai). But strange things happen as ancient words are translated, and the term El Shaddai is just as readily translated as “God of the strong breasts.” This comes from the term shadayim, which means a pair of breasts in Hebrew. Shad means breasts and ai-im signifies a dual noun. The idea seems to be that God is fertile and giving (http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Names_of_G-d/El/el.html.)
Most images of God, including God Almighty, signify God’s strength, power, and magnificence. God is too frequently modeled on the ideal of the ancient tyrant (Hartshorne 1984, p 11). A God of breasts hardly fits with this model, which is why this translation is generally ignored.
Process theology argues that God is strong, but not strong enough to overcome the will of humans, or to overcome the past. God lures us to the best choice, meaning most in keeping with our self-development as persons. But God does not compel. Not because he chooses to give us our freedom, but because he lacks the ability to compel. Instead, God is “the great companion—the fellow-suffer who understands.” (Whitehead, p 351)
Continue reading Process theology and a less than omnipotent God